Directed by Gary Burns
Written by Gary Burns & James Martin
Starring Fabrizio Filippo, Don McKellar, Marya Delver, Gordon Currie
- “Behind the scenes” footage
Released by: Home Vision.
My Advice: Catch it on cable; rent it if you must.
Four co-workers bet a monthâ€™s pay each to see who can spend the most time inside. Since they all live and work inside the downtown area–which is connected by tunnels and enclosed bridges–this is easier than it sounds. Having done this successfully for a month, however, most of the characters are starting to crack. Tom (Filippo) is using pot to help get him through his time inside, and starts hallucinating every once in a while as well, seeing a superhero or perhaps a fish eating his leg, for example. He is convinced that the office environment is turning him into a horrible person, a fear that is confirmed by his suicidal officemate, Brad (McKellar).
Sandra (Delver) is an ex-trainee whose job description includes following the founder of the company around at lunch and making sure he doesnâ€™t steal anything (heâ€™s a kleptomaniac), and returning or paying for items if he does manage to rogue something. Tom keeps whispering claustrophobic things to her and trying to freak her out about recycled air in the complex. Curt (Currie) entered a bet like this once before in college (unbeknownst to the others) and is spending his time cheating on his fiancÃ©e. Randy is Tomâ€™s friend and in on the bet as well.
As much as I complain about films being overproduced, this one felt underproduced– like its creators hadnâ€™t spent time working out the kinks. I have nothing against low-budget or indie films by any means, but I will call any film out when it seems sloppy. The premise of the film is rather enticing, and some of the sub-plots drew my attention, but through a lot of the film, I kept waiting for something to happen.
For example, I waited to find out anything about the Randy characterâ€”he was never developed at all. It almost felt like he had some purpose at one point, but maybe wound up on the cutting room floor. Tom and Sandra were very funny for a while, but the plot stalled, and by the end, I was more than ready to say goodbye. There are also some really obvious continuity errors, so obvious that I can only assume they were intentional. Charactersâ€™ clothes change from shot to shot and scene to scene, which I found distracting. Perhaps it was part of some inside commentary or joke that I just didnâ€™t get, or a way of pumping up the fact that the film was shot digitally. The digital effects that were obvious felt forced, and more for display than to further the goal of the film in any way.
There were some very good things about the film as well, however. The feeling of claustrophobia was well established. Watching Sandra unravel as she follows her boss around was very funny. Perhaps my favorite quirky thing, however, is Brad, Tomâ€™s sad officemate, who is cracking up and stapling motivational slogans to his chest while other chaos ensues during the lunch hour. Thereâ€™s also a surreal rendition of the song “Downtown” in French, which is rather amusing.
The features are minimal, and don’t add much to the experience of the DVD. The â€œbehind-the-scenesâ€ feature is basically a home video of different scenes being shot with no narration or anything describing whatâ€™s happening. It does not give any further enlightenment to how the film was made or why things are being shot as they areâ€”it’s nothing but watching a take being run, and maybe a bit of set-up for a shot. Boring and in definite need of editing. When it opens, it looks like the camera’s been set on the ground and been left running by mistake. I say “by mistake,” because for true behind the scenes footage, you would think you’d be close enough in to hear what the director’s saying. The trailer was also relatively uninspiring, with a scary version of “Downtown” being sung in the background.
If you like quirky, rougher films that have an odd sort of cult appeal, or if you too are a cubicle gopher whose life is spent in the fluorescent corridors of bureaucracy hell, you may enjoy this film. Rent it if you must, or catch it on cable if you can. Donâ€™t buy it unless youâ€™ve already seen it and love it.